Searching for an HIV Cure

NIH to support research on viral reservoir, immunologic strategies

Photo of a gloved hand grasping a blood-test tube labeled "HIV+"; hand is wearing a blue medical glove; background is blurred blood-test tubes and notebook
Image: Foremniakowski/iStock/Getty Images Plus

A team led by Dan Barouch, the HMS William Bosworth Castle Professor of Medicine and director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has been awarded $4.9 million in annual funding over the next five years to find a cure for HIV.

Barouch is one of 10 primary investigators to receive a 2021 National Institutes of Health Martin Delaney Collaboratories for HIV Cure Research award, which aims to expedite human immunodeficiency virus cure research by bringing together research partners in academia, government, the private sector, and the community; coordinating complex research studies; and mentoring the next generation of HIV researchers. 

Get more HMS news here

Barouch, a leading HIV investigator, and colleagues will focus on understanding the viral reservoir—HIV-infected immune cells that remain dormant in the body despite antiretroviral therapy (ART) and can become reactivated if ART is interrupted—and on developing new immunologic strategies that target the reservoir to control or eradicate HIV infection. 

With more than 35 million people worldwide living with the virus and nearly 2 million new cases each year, HIV remains a major global epidemic. 

“The latent viral reservoir is the critical barrier for the development of a cure for HIV-1 infection,” said Barouch, adding that “our overall hypothesis is that multiple immunologic strategies will need to be explored and combined to achieve long-term, ART-free virologic control or complete virus eradication. We’re very grateful for this grant and tremendously excited to see the progress we can make with this long-term source of support.”

Dan Barouch. Courtesy Beth Israel Deaconess
Dan Barouch. Courtesy Beth Israel Deaconess

The NIH’s collaboratory program was launched in 2010 in honor of the late HIV/AIDS activist Martin Delaney, who served on the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases AIDS Research Advisory Committee.

The new awards will focus on three key areas: basic research on HIV reservoirs and post-treatment control; strategies for durable control of viral rebound; and approaches to reducing, eradicating, or inactivating the latent virus.

“Dr. Barouch has performed elegant, innovative science to enhance our understanding of HIV,” said Mark Zeidel, chair of the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess.

“His innovations include the development of novel and highly effective adenoviral vectors and the development and application of highly relevant animal models to test the efficacy of vaccine candidates. We look forward to seeing his future contributions in HIV research with this generous support.”

Barouch, who is a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, has a track record for developing novel vaccines and cure strategies for viruses of global importance. Barouch is also co-lead of the Vaccines Working Group for the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness.

In addition to his work in partnership with Johnson & Johnson to develop a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine Barouch and colleagues also developed the first Zika virus vaccine in 2016, as well as the first global mosaic HIV-1 vaccine, currently in phase 3 clinical trials. 

“At BIDMC, our scientists are dedicated to translating innovation and scientific discoveries into clinical practice, and Dr. Barouch has made immeasurable contributions to fighting new and emerging infectious diseases,” said Gyongyi Szabo, chief academic officer of Beth Israel Deaconess and Beth Israel Lahey Health.

Adapted from a Beth Israel Deaconess news release.